SEATTLE – Coming from behind once against Kevin Millwood can be a little too much to ask of a team. Doing it twice in the same game? Don’t even think about it, unless you’re this year’s Seattle Mariners.
Comebacks to the Mariners have seemed as regular as breathing – they’d done it seven times in their 15 victories. Monday night they came up one breath short.
Having already made up a four-run deficit earlier in the game, the Mariners couldn’t come from behind a second time and lost 6-5 to the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
Like their last three games – two of them victories – it wasn’t decided until the final out.
The Mariners had runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth when Ichiro Suzuki lashed at a first-pitch fastball from Rangers right-hander Frank Francisco and flied out to center field to end the game.
The Mariners have played 12 one-run games this season, including the past four, and manager Don Wakamatsu was proud of the fact they came back against Millwood, who seemed unhittable early.
“Millwood was as good as anybody I’ve seen this year as far as command,” Wakamatsu said. “He was literally unhittable. But again, it shows the character of this club. We battled all the way to the end.”
It wasn’t so much the end that hurt so much as two misplaced pitches in the middle.
Mariners starter Felix Hernandez, trying to push his record to 5-0, instead wound up 0-5 in his last six starts against the Rangers. It didn’t help that he woke up Monday morning with the flu and, while he wasn’t feeling great at gametime, he was good enough to hold down the Rangers through three innings. They managed only two hits off him, both singles.
Hernandez, who’d pitched 19 straight scoreless innings going into the game, had that total up to 22 until the Rangers got to him in the fourth. Michael Young led off with a single, Hank Blalock drove him in with a double and Marlon Byrd followed with an RBI single. Hernandez gave up another single to Nelson Cruz before getting the next three Rangers, two on strikeouts, to keep the score 2-0.
In the fifth, Hernandez left a pitch up in the strike zone and Young hit it over the right-field fence for a two-run homer, his seventh this season, and a 4-0 Rangers lead.
The Mariners erased all of that margin in the bottom of the fifth.
Russell Branyan led off with his seventh home run and, after Jose Lopez singled and Kenji Johjima doubled with one out, Franklin Gutierrez drove a first-pitch fastball over the left-field fence for a three-run homer and, more importantly, a 4-4 tie.
It lasted all of three more hitters.
Hernandez got the first out in the sixth before David Murphy flared a single to right field. Hernandez left another pitch up and Chris Davis hit it out to right field for his sixth home run, a two-run blow that gave the Rangers a 6-4 lead.
The Mariners kept clawing, putting runners in scoring position in every remaining inning except the eight, scoring in the seventh when Gutierrez and Yuniesky Betancourt singled with one out and Suzuki pushed home a run with a fielder’s choice grounder.
That made it a one-run game and, with relievers Sean White and Denny Stark keeping the Rangers quiet through the ninth, the Mariners looked for another dose of last-at-bat heroics.
Francisco got the first two outs, but not without controversy.
Kenji Johjima hit a hard smash toward left field that Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus grabbed deep in the hole with a headlong dive. His throw from the edge of the outfield grass arrived at first just after Johjima hit the bag.
TV replays showed that, although first base umpire Paul Emmel called him out.
Out but not down, the Mariners maintained life when Gutierrez dumped a single to right field and Betancourt drew a walk, his first of the season.
That brought up Suzuki, who was looking for something he could drive. He got it on the first pitch, a thigh-high fastball over the middle half of the plate, but didn’t get good wood on it. He hit a fly to center field that ended the game.
Pain in gut stops Junior
Ken Griffey Jr. has dealt with the effects of diverticulitis – an inflammation of the colon – for a few years, and it hit him again Monday.
Griffey missed nearly a week of games because of it nearly two years ago when he played for the Cincinnati Reds. He wasn’t in the lineup Monday but expected to be OK soon.
Rangers 6, Mariners 5
LOB—Texas 5, Seattle 5. 2B—Blalock (5), M.Sweeney (4), Johjima (1). 3B—I.Suzuki (1). HR—M.Young (7), off F.Hernandez; C.Davis (6), off F.Hernandez; Branyan (7), off Millwood; F.Gutierrez (3), off Millwood. RBIs—M.Young 2 (16), Blalock (19), Byrd (15), C.Davis 2 (12), I.Suzuki (9), Branyan (15), F.Gutierrez 3 (13). SB—I.Suzuki (4). CS—Dav.Murphy (2). RLSP—Texas 2 (Blalock, Saltalamacchia); Seattle 4 (En.Chavez 2, Jo.Lopez, I.Suzuki). RMU—M.Young, Beltre.
|Millwood W, 3-2||7 1/3||8||5||5||0||3||87||2.78|
|C.Wilson H, 2||1/3||0||0||0||0||0||4||5.25|
|F.Francisco S, 8-8||1 1/3||1||0||0||1||0||16||0.00|
|F.Hernandez L, 4-1||6||10||6||6||0||9||97||3.38|
T—2:28. A—16,421 (47,878).